Gratitude, Seeing, and Blessing

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From Pixabay

I’ve been reading and thinking. Both of these are dangerous activities for the smart person. I know I fit into the smart category–maybe.

In my readings I came across gratitude, seeing, and blessing as a way to open myself to the world around me. Now I have talked about how I have had problems with writing since I have been ill with a variety of things since January.

Also I have been pretty cranky and isolated. It is easy to believe that my world has shrunk to my apartment, dog, and illnesses. Even worse when I do go out into the world, it is at great risk to my health. When I spent four days in the hospital, I had to admit that I needed to be more careful.

It affects my writing as well.

So when I read of gratitude, seeing, and blessing, I was a bit cynical. It couldn’t hurt though. So every day and every night, I say aloud what I am grateful for. The seeing part was a little harder. I needed to see others with how they see themselves in a few years–older and wiser. I also had to do that for myself.

The third act was blessing. I  had to bless my dog, my world, my family, and my enemies without qualifications. Do you know how hard that is? I bless you but–. I had to close off the but before it entered my head.

Since I have tried to be more grateful, better see-er, and blessing without qualifications, I have become more open myself. The unintended consequence is that I am writing and editing better.

So on that note, I am giving you an excerpt of the next short novel that I am editing.

Diamond Butterfly

The snow came down wet and heavy as I trudged down the dirt road, marked by slashes on the trees. Without those slashes I couldn’t see the road, and I still had to hike a couple of miles before I made it to the cabin. My baby boy’s sleeping breath warmed my neck as I carried him on my back, wrapped in a blanket. With his weight on my back, I tested each footstep. If we fell in the snow, hypothermia could be a problem. I couldn’t fall.

I had been driving down that road like a demon with the snow hitting the windshield. I should have gotten new blades, hell, new tires when I realized that I was heading for the storm. The heater kept a small portion of my windshield clear. I might not have jerked and slid off the road, barely hitting a tree if I had seen the black creature earlier. Now I was walking in the storm and trying to keep my baby warm.

The snow dampened the sound around me. I could only hear the crunch of my own boots. Even the birds and smaller animals were hidden in burrows. I opened my mouth to taste the air. I couldn’t smell or taste anything around me, just wet and more wet.

I reached back and touched my boy’s small foot. It was soft and warm. I felt a quick relief. If I could just make it to the cabin soon without getting lost, we would be fine. I took a deep breath and followed the slashes. Heavy, against my leg was the loaded revolver.

How did I, Nova Tewa, the Diamond Butterfly and obedient granddaughter, get into this mess?

This morning my grandmother and I had been in our small house on the reservation. My grandmother had been making cinnamon candies from an old recipe she got from her grandmother. The smell of vanilla and cinnamon wafted through the house while we listened to Frank Sinatra’ s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” followed by “Let it Snow.” The speakers crackled.

I put the final decorations on the tree. We had been stringing popcorn all morning to wrap around the tree. The fake green fir tree was in the front window. Grandmother had little red beads, which we strung between the white kernels. This year we made all of our own ornaments because we could only afford red beads and silver fringe.

My little baby boy, only a few weeks old, slept in an antique baby rocker. Grandmother’s father had made it with his own hands and my grandmother had slept in it as a baby. When she had her first child, her father gave her the rocker. Now my own son slept in it.
I was rocking the little one when I heard heavy footsteps march up the front steps. I tensed a little when the knocking began. It boomed against the wooden door. A voice growled, “Open up.”

My grandmother stopped stirring the syrup, stepped to the kitchen door, and motioned to me. I grabbed the baby and ran into the kitchen. She motioned to the car keys and a jacket. I slipped out the back door, laid the baby in the foot well under the front seat.

“Coming, coming,” she shouted at the front door.

Then I heard a crash, and my grandmother screamed. I turned the key in the ignition, and started the car. It roared. I hoped that whoever was invading our home hadn’t heard me. Although I felt my stomach clench as I looked straight ahead. I hoped my grandmother was fine, but I didn’t believe it.

Before the my son’s birth, I would have fought our invaders. I would have slipped out the back door with a gun in my hand and ambushed them by shooting them in the back. In our part of the country, home invaders were not treated gently.

Scenes of mayhem and torture of my beloved grandmother flashed through overactive imagination. I wanted to scream at leaving her.

I almost hesitated. I loved my grandmother but my loyalty had to be to my son. He was too little to protect himself. I must protect him. I felt a primal scream burst from my mouth. I grabbed the wheel and slid as I pushed my foot down hard on the accelerator.

“No, no, no,” I screamed my throat hoarse.

Before I slid off the road, I turned the wheel and I let my foot off the pedal. We stopped. I looked back but no one was following us yet. I slowly pushed the pedal and drove down the road more carefully. I kept looking at my rear-view mirror. My heart beat rapidly. I took a deep breath and looked at the road in front of me.

We were not criminals. We didn’t steal, prostitute, or use drugs. I focused on the windshield wipers as they swished up and down, up and down. The steady sound calmed my nerves for a moment as I drove to a little market just ten miles from our home. I had been here many times when I went to the city to drink, dance, and party.

I parked next to a pump and looked down at my son who was still lying in the foot well in front of the seat. I picked him up and buckled him into the car seat in the back. He didn’t moan or even move. His eyes were closed and his fist was in his mouth. For a moment I felt that surge that every mother feels when they look at their baby. I wanted to snuggle him close to my chest and sing my grandmother’s lullabies.

No time. No time. Another part of my mind beat a rhythm in my head. I squeezed his hand and then shut the door.

I put the fuel nozzle in the car’s tank. The baby murmured in his sleep.

We had left the house so quickly that I hadn’t been able to grab the diaper bag. I would need to buy diapers, food, and blankets soon. This little convenience store only had gas and snacks. I wouldn’t find baby stuff here.

The fuel stopped with a click. I reached for the nozzle and some gas dribbled on the ground. The sharp smell hit my nose and I coughed.

I looked at my back trail. I had that feeling that they were on the road and following me. So, I jumped when the manager called my name. Dave didn’t usually work at night. I felt a growing sense of unease.

“Nova,” he said. “Did you meet your cousins?”

“I must have missed them,” I jiggled the handle of the nozzle as I placed it in the pump. I climbed into the car and rolled down the window. “What did they look like?”

Dave described two men with dark hair, dark eyes, and short stout bodies. He could have been describing any of the men on the reservation.

“Did you get their names?”

He hadn’t. My worry must have leaked through my body language because when he said, “Nova,” he sounded worried. “It’s going to storm hard tonight. Are you sure you should take the baby out?”

No, I was sure. Of course it wasn’t smart to take the baby out. But if I had stayed in the nice warm house, then those men would have gotten us. I wanted to leave. Still, I waited for Dave’s weather prediction. He was usually right.

“How much snow?” I asked. I clutched the steering wheel hard and turned on the car. I turned up the heat, so that the baby would stay warm.

“We’ll be snowed in for days,” he said. He paused. The next words came out of him in a rush. “If you go north, you can stay at my cabin.” He pulled out a key from his front pocket. “Get going. You have a lot of driving to do tonight.”

As I drove away, I saw him in the rear view mirror. He was watching the sky.

She Called It, Wolf Excerpt

She called it wolf cover 2017 I wrote this particular book quite early during my training phase with NANOWRIMO. It gave me the momentum to actually finish a novel. Last year I finished the first draft in the second of this series. When I went back to find names of characters and remember the story line, I came to a sad conclusion. I needed to redraft. The plot was sound, but the actual writing needed trimming in places and additions in others. The big change was from third person to first person.

So editing this book has turned into a real bear. I thought I could zip through it in a week. I am now about two weeks into it.

On the health front, I am having the normal reaction to having a misbehaving thyroid. I am going crazy.

So without further ado, here is an excerpt:

Chapter Thirteen

Felony Flats, EJ’s trailer
Sheriff Adam

The dark was more than vision, it was velvet across his skin. I could hear the owls and coyotes in the distance. It was my turn to watch Harry’s trailer. Owen was sound asleep in his own bed or someone else’s. I was in my truck and sore as hell. The green of the radio’s light lit up the inner cab. I stretched and felt my spine pop, one vertebrae at a time. It had been a long day. I should be home, drinking a beer.

I was here because I had had feeling in the pit of his stomach, the one that felt like leather and fur. I listened to that feeling. I was alpha and that feeling meant a new transformation. If I didn’t listen a new werewolf could get into trouble. The moon wasn’t out. For the older werewolves or the ones with more power, moon-time wasn’t the only time they could change. The moon did pull them. That part of the lore was true. It was probably why the goddess Diana was associated with lunar wolves.

My disquiet intensified around 2 a.m., when I saw the trailer door open and close. EJ stood naked in the night air. Her black braid hung to her waist, her skin soft and pearly in the moonlight. I felt the call and groaned. She was the personification of Diana: monochromatic in the night. Then she burst into static light and fur. It was so bright that I had to close my eyes.

When the light disappeared, there was a wolf by the trailer. Damn. She really is a werewolf. Her wolf sable coat shimmered with silver highlights. He wanted even more.
I felt the fur ruffle under my skin. I got out of my truck, folded my clothes on the front seat, and started the process of turning from man to wolf. My transformation was much slower and more painful. I didn’t have the moon to help me.

My wolf crept closer and closer with the promise of meeting this new female. As Alpha I had a better connection to the power. I could shift in five minutes. Most of the pack went through a slow painful process that could take up to fifteen minutes to change.

I endured as the muscles popped and the skin stretched. I felt my ears lengthen and my hair turn to fur.

As soon as I felt my four feet, I ran. The wolf came to the forefront of my mind as I stepped back. As always it was an uneasy truce between wolf and man. The wolf had the present, but his five senses – taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing – were more acute. The female wolf was running. My wolf smelled her, leaped, and then followed.

Felony Flats
EJ Hunter

At 2 a.m. I woke up with my wolf whining in the back of my mind. Run, run, run, taste, smell. My wolf wanted to run, mark, and make the place her own. I got out of bed, stripped, and started for the door. Barkley lifted his head up, sniffed, and settled back into the bed. The dog snored.

I looked up at the stars. As I stepped into the back of my mind, my wolf took over. A blast of light. I turned from woman to wolf. My wolf lifted up her nose and chuffed. She smelled a metallic scent and then an intriguing smell of man-wolf. She walked to the bush where Owen had stayed for a night. It was not the smell that enticed her.

She lifted her tail and ran down a small dust trail that lead from the trailer. The Alpha grew stronger. If he wanted her, he would have to catch her. She ran like the wind down the path. In the dry dust, she could smell the life around her– rabbits, mice, and a couple of coyotes. She stopped to catch a mouse. Crunch and it was gone. Her attention went to the coyotes. They shouldn’t be here. I twas her territory.

Then she could smell him. The Alpha ran down the trail, running toward her. She looked back at him, teeth glinting. He was chasing her and she could smell pheromones reach and catch her attention.

But, she wasn’t ready for an Alpha. This was her territory. He came to a full stop when she snarled at him. He batted at her with his fore paws. She rolled. Then sat down, with her tongue out. He came up to sniff her.

She rolled away from him and ran away. He ran beside her. Her heart was beating and she jumped. She could feel EJ beating against her mind. Go back to the trailer. She didn’t want to go back to the silver can. She wanted to play.

She went from a run to a dead stop, and then hissed and growled. Instead of playing that game, the Alpha howled.

The howl rose and vibrated through his throat and body. It gave her a longing to be a part of a him. He howled again and there was an answering howl. She sat and howled with them. Their howls twined together. The sound burst from her body in waves of sound. She turned tail and ran back to the trailer. EJ urged her on. He ran behind her.
Then he leaped and landed on her back. They rolled together. She snapped at his paws, but he held her down. She could feel his body’s strength against her own. As soon as her let her up, she ran again only this time she jumped and rolled him. There was a chuff that sounded almost like a laugh. They rolled and marked each other until they were lying together. Then he mounted her.

Afterward, he licked her muzzle and she cuddled against him. But, her heart didn’t crack until he left for a moment and returned with a rabbit in his jaws. He laid it near her paws. She sniffed it and then bit. The crunching of the bones was satisfying. They were mates. She could feel EJ frantically trying to get her to get up and go back to the silver box.

The taste of bone, meat, and blood stayed in her mouth. She fell asleep cuddled against the Alpha. They would have beautiful pups together.

***

I woke with the sun in my eyes. I must have left the curtains open. I rubbed my eyes. That was an interesting dream last night. I was a wolf and I met an Alpha. I was not in my bed. I was not in the trailer. I sat up.

Naked. check. On the ground, not on a bed. check. A nude man next to her. check.

“How could you,” I slapped Adam awake. Of course it was Adam. I could feel a blush cover my entire body.

I went outside naked. Did I turn into a wolf? My mind burned with memories. All my wolf had to say was, yum.

I ate a raw rabbit. My wolf asked sleepily, “Why are you so mad?”

I tried to spit out the last of the fragments of that meal, but it was already digested. I remembered falling asleep curled around the Alpha.

Mate and pups corrected my sleeping wolf.

“No,” I said firmly. I didn’t need a mate and I certainly didn’t need pups.

Dark Moon Rising– an excerpt

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From Pixabay

I finished the first draft of Dark Moon Rising last year, but due to life and and Hilda’s Inn, I haven’t finished editing. Silly me, I am re-editing She Called It, Wolf because I noticed that my writing has gotten better by writing. Who knew?

Plus I made a mistake as a new writer. I started a series and only wrote one book. I am hoping to correct that error. In my mind there are three books about the Felony Flats werewolf pack.

Tucked around the novels, I have written some short books in that world–Billy the Kid, Urban Werewolf, and Diamond Butterfly. Hidden in the Sierras is short fiction in the same world, but of a werebear sleuth.

So without further ado, here is an excerpt of Dark Moon Rising:

What the wind blew in

British Columbia, Canada
Mari Cantor

The pine trees swayed around the cabin as the rushing wind heralded the end of summer. Even in the forests, the heat had beat down on the trees. It had been so dry, that the pine needles crackled underfoot. The usual smell of mold was undercut by the dust that covered everything. They had been lucky this year that there had been no huge fires.

I leaned against the frame of the open door, sipping the bitter coffee in my cup. Sweetness was for others. I liked mine strong and black. When I left Felony Flats a few years ago, I came to this small town surrounded by trees that hadn’t been cut for over a hundred years. I had a small car, a small amount of cash, and an aching heart.

I sipped my coffee, rolling the black taste across her tongue, as the light brightened around the cabin for a moment and then vanished in the clouds. It may rain today.
In my head I listed the things I needed to do today. First I would have to finish picking the last tomatoes. The small amount of corn I had grown had been pilfered by raccoons.

But, I could trade the tomatoes for corn. Someone in the small town would have grown enough corn to feed the entire town for the winter. I’d wait to harvest the last of the potatoes after the first good chill. My small garden would keep me well-fed over the winter.

There were very few jobs in this area that didn’t center on hunting and fishing trips for rich tourists. Some of the locals had gotten inventive and started camera tours. Even though a lot of their customers were the tree-huggers, the guides always took guns with them. You never knew when you would run into a grizzly or some other wild creature that was hungry. During mating season the moose would hump anything. I smiled at the image. Some tree-huggers had learned that the hard way.

I drained my coffee, tasting the last of the bitter dregs. As I tasted the bitterness slid across my tongue, my precog kicked in and I froze. It had been a long time since I had been bothered by the buzzing across my nerves. When I ran to the woods, I did it deliberately. I wanted limited contact with people. The more contact I had, the more murmurings I heard in my head. Sometimes they would develop to full-blown epileptic fits caused by visions. Of course, I had run. Ran from the sounds and visions and the people would would use me to see into the future.

I stumbled to the small couch before I fell as the room swayed around me. I dropped my coffee mug. The sound of breaking ceramic almost jerked me out of the vision as I collapsed on the couch and not the floor.

It started like a migraine. Colors burst and bubbled around my vision and pain of constricting and then contracting veins blasted the top of my head. I heard whimpering coming from my own mouth because the pain was so great.

Then my vision narrowed until I saw a long tunnel. At the very end of the tunnel, she saw a man walking towards her. His body was blurred, but she could see the face clearly. There was no sound with this vision. The man, she didn’t want to put name to that face, said something. He was saying her name over and over.

The vision released me as suddenly as it had started. I was too weak to drag myself to the bathroom, even though I wanted to vomit the coffee that had soured in my stomach. I could hear his voice in the wind as it rustled the trees. The leaves called out to me.

My voice cracked, “He’s coming. Heaven help me. He’s coming.”

I wanted to run to the closet, fill my suitcase with clothes, and leave. I had to be gone before he found me. But my body wouldn’t move.

Little by little, I lifted my head, and slowly moved one arm after another. When I could feel my body again, I stood on my feet. My stomach rumbled. In a daze, I swept the coffee mug into a dustpan, and dropped the broken pieces in the trash. I could try to escape, but she I knew in my gut that he had already found me.

“Too late,” the wind whispered.

“Too late,” my heart echoed.

There was a loud knock on the door. For a moment, I stood frozen. This time, a loud yoo-hoo unlocked my brain. It was the neighbor two miles down the road. He wasn’t here, yet.

I threw open the door and saw Susan was standing on the stoop with a child in her arms. She handed the little one to me. “Mari, could you watch the baby while I go for groceries in Vancouver?” Susan chattered about having a baby and the price of diapers and formula.

“Greg said that if you would take care of her today, we can go to the big store and get the stuff much cheaper. Please?”

I couldn’t say no to Susan. Susan was the neighbor who had helped me find this cabin, taught me how to grow a garden to supplement my food, and even how to survive in the backwoods. This woman, short and bouncy, taught me how to survive bears and elk and other creatures. Plus she had showed me what berries to eat and what not to eat.Susan was the closest thing I had to a friend.

Susan’s hazel eyes pleaded. She didn’t get to have much time alone with Greg since the baby was born. I sighed and bounced the child in my arms. The wind rustled and laughed. “No escape.”

I was too late to leave. If I wanted to leave I should have left in the beginning of summer when I had had that small warning. I had seen a fire in my dreams. But, when nothing happened I decided to stay. I had found my nest—my place. I didn’t want to leave.

“Okay,” I said to Susan. She was all business-like as she showed me the milk and the diapers. Like a new mother she gave me instructions on how to care for the baby even though I had done this before.

Then she was in the truck with Greg and they were gone. The wind had quit whistling and blew lightly. I closed the door. The little girl whimpered once and then fell asleep.

I settled into the small rocking chair on the front stoop. I could smell curdled milk and lotion. My heart slowed down. I rocked the baby until my thoughts were quiet.

Once Greg and Susan were back, there would be time to say goodbye to the woods and the cabin. He was coming and I knew deep in my bones that I was not coming back.

I looked out across the dirt road leading through the woods; the baby snuggled in my arms. As the day progressed the light held more shadows. It was fall. I would miss the change from late fall to early winter and snow. This year I had made enough money to buy a snowmobile so that I could get out after the worst snowstorms. Sometimes the lights of the bar and the small town were a welcome sight after being snowed in for days. I wouldn’t buy a snowmobile now.

I was already missing my cabin and my forest. It was so unlike the desert I had played in as a child. At first when I moved here, I would see people in the periphery of my eyes. When I looked straight at them, I only saw trees. I was used to having the landscape stretch before me, unbroken by trees. Now I felt comforted by the trees as they towered over me.

Some of the trees around my cabin were over four feet in diameter and some were even larger. This summer I had been entranced by the squirrels that floated from tree to tree.
Feeding the squirrels could be hazardous. Some of the smaller mammals got rabies. It was better that I didn’t get the animals familiar with this cabin as a feeding ground. So I watched the squirrels and birds, and I stopped the impulse to feed them.

When the baby started to grumble a little, I stood up and took her into the house. I pulled out a bottle of milk from the fridge, warmed it, and feed the little one. The baby grabbed onto the bottle’s nipple with her mouth and sucked hard until the milk was gone. Then I put the baby over my shoulder. I patted her until she burped. It burst out of her.

“I see you have new skills, Mari,” a male voice said from the screen door on my porch. I knew that voice. He had found me.